Managing Start-Ups: Challenges Unique to Female Entrepreneurs in the Travel Industry

Female CEOs are kind of like shark attacks – extremely rare, but so well-covered by the media we think they’re pretty common. – Emily Peck in the Huffington Post 

And she is right!

Travel and Tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world and there are more women working in the travel industry but ironically, there are only a few women in the higher positions on the corporate ladder.

Does the business’ success depend on one person and if so, does the leader’s gender matter? The invisible glass ceiling… Does it exist? Why does nobody want to talk about it?

In recent times, female entrepreneurs have accomplished countless achievements in domains normally dominated by men. However, this should not come as a surprise as research has shown that female entrepreneurs have been more proficient at evaluating risks, being ambitious, and managing their confidence.

Despite these attributes, the majority of female entrepreneurs face considerable challenges in growing in a male-dominated society. Although no entrepreneur has it easy, and everyone has to go through several hurdles to make their business successful, female entrepreneurs have to face more difficulties than male entrepreneurs.

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Let’s now discuss some of the challenges affecting female entrepreneurs and why there are so few female leaders in the travel and tourism industry.

Gaps in Training and Funding

For entrepreneurs, getting funding and investments is essential to develop a robust business that can compete with existing businesses. However, if a business is not able to receive sufficient funding, this can affect its chances of success.

Sadly, research suggests that businesses led by women receive less funding as compared to businesses led by men. A research study conducted between 1997 and 2000 in the United States discovered that investors offered less than 6% of total venture capital funds to a business run by female entrepreneurs.

There is a lack of access to proper education and training for women in the travel and tourism industry. Investing in a travel business coach who has the experience to help you launch a business not only you are proud of but is set-up for success is your first step.

Related: Why You Need a Travel Business Coach, How To Avoid Paying Too Much As A Travel Agent

According to a study even though the tourism industry creates a lot of job opportunities for women, a lot of unpaid work is being carried out by women in family-owned tourism businesses.

There is a gender gap pay in the tourism industry as women earn less than men for equivalent work. Women entrepreneurs in the travel industry usually run their own family small businesses so most likely, they are underrepresented in higher management positions in the tourism sector. In the 90s, the US government had decided to allocate a mere 5% of the total contract to businesses led by female contractors. Although this motion was passed in 1994, the federal government took nearly 22 years to achieve the seemingly small ratio of contract allocation to women.

Despite this progress, female-owned businesses face significant difficulties in obtaining federal contracts. Even to this day, these businesses have 21% less chances of getting a federal contract compared to businesses of a similar nature led by a man. Although things have improved than where they were before, female entrepreneurs still face explicit and subtle gender discrimination. Many private investors including the travel industry sector don’t take female investors seriously or discriminate based on gender.

An example of this situation was seen after the global financial crisis of 2007, where loans for female-owned small-business dropped by a whopping 70% between 2007 and 2013. A huge contributing factor to this decline was the antiquated belief that females have a gender-defined role as a caregiver at home and, thus, are less likely to succeed as entrepreneurs.

Such worn-out notions about women and underlying discrimination prevent female entrepreneurs from obtaining the same opportunities as men in the travel industry. Female business owners that attend networking events often face situations where they have difficulties in meeting other female business owners. This forces them to interact and discuss business issues mostly with male business owners, which can be a little difficult for some entrepreneurs.

Some female entrepreneurs feel that they need to conform to traits specifically attributed to male business owners. These traits can be actions such as being overly aggressive to subordinates, which can become harsh for such employees.

However, the majority of successful female entrepreneurs have faith in their own approach and avoid aggressive attitude towards business. Although social expectations might force female leaders to conform to male attitudes, they are better off following their own unique approach. Creating a work-life balance is a challenge, regardless of who you are. However, studies have found that female professionals and businesses face more difficulty in this regard. A research study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013 discovered that female professionals and business owners with children face three times more difficulty in career growth than male professionals and business owners with children. A robust support network is a key component of success for entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, female entrepreneurs have to face a lack of support here, as well. This is attested by a survey conducted by Inc., which found that 48% of female business founders felt the lack of advisors and mentors led to limited chances of professional growth for them.


Despite all seemingly impossible hurdles, the future for female entrepreneurs in the travel industry is bright. Women are becoming more ambitious, seeking better opportunities and moving up the socio-economic ladder all around the world.

Gender equality is now being implemented in most if not all big travel companies around the globe. Many women entrepreneurs are now stepping up as role models to empower women in their own communities and in the travel industry.

Everyone’s journey is different but through the power of these women’s stories, it is my hope you can find the inspiration to jump or continue to aspire to higher levels in your purpose.

Furthermore, female-led businesses have started to gain traction and have even managed to surpass billion-dollar valuations with their ideas. Although female entrepreneurs face significantly more challenges than men, any woman can overcome these challenges and succeed as a business owner with persistence, hard work, and dedication.

Can you relate to the challenges listed above? As a female entrepreneur, what are the challenges you face and how did you overcome them? Share your story in the comments sections below!

Managing Start-Ups: Challenges Unique to Female Entrepreneurs in the Travel Industry




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